Magellan Doesn’t Live Here

Nearly 500 years after Europeans first arrived in Guam, Mario Borja, a Chamoru craftsman and amateur historian, reconstructs a lost history of our  people, that takes us from the British Naval archives to a Pacific crossing, which will bring his crew back to Guam in a hand built outrigger called a Sakman.

The film is a parable about the resilient spirit that is at the heart of the survival of the CHamoru people and our culture. It is both biographical and experimental. Structured around this idea of trying to get Magellan on the phone, it introduces the question of how to traverse or translate between oral and literate culture or memory. The Sakman has been navigating between these two modes of history – disappearing from one, which is enacted and chanted – some fragment of it sustained in the other, as a drawing in an archive, and then through this intrepid group of craftsman, returning again to the lived form of cultural memory.

This dynamic marks something of the shared experience of Pacific Islanders returning to their islands, both literally, for those of the diaspora finding their ways home by boat, or by plane, or in dreams, or across the internet, and metaphorically in the sense of returning to the strength of our traditions and our connection to the land and sea that define us.

All of us face the anxiety of having lost something of this connection, and the uncertainties of finding our way as we return.